Increased border enforcement leads to more migrant deaths

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. M. Farmer says:

    I’m not sure I understand. Do you believe it’s better to relax border enforcement? I’m not talking about amnesty for people who’ve been here awhile — are you saying allowing people to come across the border more easily is the answer?Report

    • Scott in reply to M. Farmer says:

      @M. Farmer,

      E.D.’s logic demands that the U.S. give up its sovereignty to help out those poor illegals. I suppose that we should outlaw guns possession as well b/c it leads to an increased number of dead home invaders.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:


        Giving up sovereignty has as much to do with the issue as giving up coffee: Do whatever you like on the border and with border enforcement. The United States government is still sovereign on this side of the line.Report

  2. Sam M says:

    “Layers upon layers of absurdity dominate the immigration debate.”

    I dunno. I am a free-market type and lean toward open borders, but it worries me enough that I worry I might be wrong. I mean… unemployment is at 10 percent or some such. It is much higher among less-skilled laborers. Is it really ABSURD or RIDICULOUS to wonder if open borders might be exacerbating these issues? Is it really so beyond the pale to wonder if allowing millions upon millions of workers into the country at this time that it borders on insanity?

    I think if you are that sure of your position on this issue, whatever your position is, you might want to consider the possibility that something akin to epistemic closure has settled in.Report

    • M. Farmer in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M,
      If we had a truly free market, an open border would be needed to keep up with the growth, but with a welfare state, it’s stealing more money from the few producers left.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, I certainly understand the concerns. But I don’t think this qualifies as ‘epistemic closure’ either.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, if you understand the concerns, it’s not evident in your post. By the logic put forth, either you support allowing as many immigrants as want to come here or you’re essentially in favor of dead Mexicans (or South Americans or whatever).

        There is a strong case to be made that amnesty would actually make this worse. Increasing the likelihood of citizenship would increase the incentives of trying to sneak across the border. More will die trying to do so. So are you indifferent to the deaths of Mexicans? And do you still beat your wife?

        (I am, by and large, pro-immigration – though not open borders – and am as skeptical as you are of the sinking ship. I appreciate you bringing this graph to my attention, but do not so much appreciate the nature in which it has been presented. I’m sorry that would-be immigrants are dying as they try to get here, but there are limits to the degree to which that should affect our policy seeing as how they are operating independently of our direction and, for that matter, contrary to the laws we currently have.)Report

        • Koz in reply to Trumwill says:

          “I’m sorry that would-be immigrants are dying as they try to get here, but there are limits to the degree to which that should affect our policy seeing as how they are operating independently of our direction and, for that matter, contrary to the laws we currently have.”

          Yeah, no sttt Sherlock.

          There are many things that are the government’s fault, but this can’t be one of them.Report

      • Sam M in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,

        Well, if it’s not epistemic closure, it’s closure of some kind. I certainly think some immigration opponents go pretty far overboard, but the general case against mass immigration of low-skilled workers doesn’t strike me as ridiculous or absurd. Both culturally and economically, I think the concerns are legitimate. And to simply say, without any hint of introspection or explanation, that “the ship is not sinking” gives short shrift to those concerns.

        Let’s say you are a high school drop-out or a single mom. You do the right thing and go look for a job to support your kids. When you go to drop off your application there are 50 immigrants–legal and otherwise–dropping applications off for the same job. All of them are willing to work for $3 an hour and no benefits.

        Is it ridiculous or absurd to think the presence of this low-skilled labor force might be having some impact on the wages you earn, and to be less than satisfied when someone explains that you are actually better off because the proce of lawn care and chicken is lower than it would otherwise be?

        There are certainly some nuances to explain. But again, those concerns aren’t ridiculous.Report

      • Koz in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “But I don’t think this qualifies as ‘epistemic closure’ either.”

        Are you sure? What part of that chart or Serwer’s post leads to believe that border enforcement = more migrant deaths?

        What are we suppose to call it when you try to insist that all wars are either for plunder or for defense in spite of numerous obbbbbvvvviooouuussssss counterexamples?Report

    • Will in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, Word. Concerns about assimilation are another thing I don’t see many progressives grappling with.Report

  3. Sam M says:

    The more you look into the post, the more you begin to see the ridiculous and absurd. But maybe not on the side you expect.

    First, the researcher and author of the report is not some objective observer. It’s not even an immigration advocate at the ACLU. It’s a long-time immigration activist. Fair enough, I suppose. But read the report. It says that the number of illegal immigrants who died in border crossings since 1994 is between 3861 and 5607. Guess which number is used in the press release? Yeah, 5600.

    But again, fair enough. Let’s look at how many of these deaths they attribute to increased enforcement on the border rather than the inherent danger of walking throug a desert. Ten percent? Twenty? Nope.

    “The current policies in place on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have created a humanitarian crisis that has led to the deaths of more than 5,000 people.”

    So basically, they are saying that any and all deaths experienced along the border during these 15 years are due to these horrible enforcement policies. Not even one is attributable to the fact that it’s a bad idea to walk through a desert in July.

    Also, I am not sure how many people have crossed that desert since 1994, but the report says estimates that there are 8.4 million to 11.9 million people living in the US illegally. Let’s go with the lower number. (See, that’s possible.) Assuming SOME of the people who crossed went back, or maybe crossed a few times, I think it’s safe to assume at LEAST 10 million illegal border crossings over that 15 year period. So five thousand deaths over 15 years comes to about 333 deaths per year, from a “population” of at least 660,000 illegal crossers per year. That means one death for every every 2000 crossers. Meaning about 50 deaths per 100,000.

    The murder rate in Detroit is 37.5 per 100,000. So living in Detroit is less dangerous than crossing the border illegally. But not THAT much less dangerous. (The murder rate for residents of the Bronx in 1990: 54.7 per 100,000.) Also, the rate of deaths per crosser is almost surely inflated by my undercounting of crossers and using the maximum estimate of actual deaths.

    None of this is to say we should not make every effort to minimize these deaths. But it seems to me that the danger of crossing the border is not all that much more “grim” than living in an American city. And it might be a lot LESS grim, depending on who’s doing the counting.Report

  4. Rob says:

    I do things more dangerous every week for FUN!!!!Report